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Climate Change Environment

Series/Special. James Hansen, the head of NASA's Goddard Institute talks about climate change, Hurricane Sandy & carbon tax proposals.

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China 8, United States 6, New York 6, Sandy 6, Holocene 5, California 5, Us 5, India 4, Grover Norquist 4, Steve Schneider 3, America 3, Texas 3, Europe 3, Canada 3, Geoengineering 2, Sandys 2, James Hansen 2, Steve 2, Greenland 2, Pennsylvania 2,
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  CSPAN    Climate Change Environment    Series/Special. James Hansen, the head of NASA's Goddard  
   Institute talks about climate change, Hurricane Sandy & carbon...  

    December 30, 2012
    12:35 - 1:40am EST  

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>> i agree. >> in general, college campuses and the general -- the younger generation can be moved by this. but the long term seeming impacts on your career or making 11 may be hampered by speaking up and taking action. there has been an incredible change in the community. when sutter taught this course, he started teaching it with 40 or 50 people. the very last time he taught it, it was 300.
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>> [indiscernible] -- which is a good start. but we need to take this moment and gain some momentum. and say that we need to educate america. what role you think there is in the mainstream media and to try to get some designated shows the talk about this day in and day out?
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this is not the fiscal cliff, but the climate cliff? getting politicians, authors, experts, so that the rest of america hears it. i really hope that this will be the next wave, talking about solutions. >> the good news is that there are already some wonderful things coming. if is a great series. it is coming out of showtime. they go interviewing people around the country and record any impact on the lives.
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i think that increasing the awareness, that this is an issue that happens to me in my life, where i love, none of the people of bears for the island, but me living in san antonio tx or me living in concord or seattle for miami. you can make it directly relevant and interesting to cuba's lives. the more interest there will be. >> thank you so much to each of you for coming. i want to draw on a couple of things. as the education director with the power and passion of my generation wanting -- one of the things that i think is so critically missing is clear pathways to support the translation of informed inspiration and its desire to be part of interaction.
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i was curious it, if we had to lift up in a three-year window, how do we prioritize the leverage point in terms of production? is it a rebate system? will it make a difference in the general public? my generation of young people would want to be a solution to the change. >> that is a whole other panel. as scientists, our job is to solidify the suns with the best possible information. honestly, i am thankful that i am not in policy making because that is the hardest thing to do. but i believe that there is a great amount of low-hanging fruit.
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there are a lot of things that we can do, leaving climate out of it, still have benefits. >> old malay, there is a worthy debate be had on what the rule is that government plays. ultimately, that is what we have to do. there is a debate to be had. should it be a carbon tax, a cat capt. trade legislation? there are now conservative groups who are advancing with free-market branded solutions. the other day, a filler in the conservative booth, came out in support of a carbon tax. [applause]
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grover norquist chemo for about 16 hours. -- came out for about 16 hours. [laughter] definitely carbon taxes is bubbling up. rush right. and from a surprising source. people on the conservative side of the political spectrum, ultimately, i should not be a bar -- a partisan political issue. the day the sandy hit, i was with many people. >> of is just about to touch on that. fires burned homes with their democrats for republicans. the climate system does not care. hopefully, what we can do as scientists, is checked the risks and then the location
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details. but that is a whole different ball game. >> my name is carol stone. do you think the mayan calendar this year will have any effect? and what is the effect of the population in the world -- a billion on this issue of carbon -- >> violation? >> that -- there is a number of factors. when you look at local government in emissions. if there are more people on the planet burning carbon for energy, we will be adding more carbon to the atmosphere.
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on the other hand, people who are living in a western-style exist then use a lot more energy than people in the developing world. one of the terms in the product of terms from which we deduce future carbon emissions is global population. we tend to believe the global population will stabilize with 10 billion people by the middle of the century because the developing world will take on some of the characteristics of the western world in terms of their rate of production, for example.
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when you look at some of those projections, built into many of them is the assumption that the global population will eventually stabilize. if it does not do that, it means that the problem is even worse. that is the key uncertainty, the wild card. >> the bottom-line is a really nice where people are in the world, but how many people want a u.s. lifestyle. >> thomas rĂ¼gen talks about an america that has 3 billion people. >> my name is wayne rauf. it is -- wayne rth. what will it take to make the sacrifices to save our planet? my basic metaphor for what we're doing to plan a is putting a stick in a hornet's nest.
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a look at the pale ale for maximum and that lasted a thousand years. when we were bombed in pearl harbor, we acted very quickly. we do not recognize that we're in a program right now. but it is spreading all of the planet and nothing is raising the consciousness of the common people to the degree to say that we have to do something. >> where is the sense of urgency? what will it take?
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will it take another hurricane katrina-would take another drought in the midwest where they have no food to eat? how many people in the united states will have to die before the united states political system recognizes and becomes a leader should quicken actually make some changes? >> one thing that steve schneider always emphasized to students is that if is worth thinking about the matter for which apply to climate change. coral harbour is one which is an urgent one. but certainly apartheid or civil-rights movement were things that are every bit as urgent where the time skills are much longer and the accuracy takes on how you talk to people.
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>> i think we can learn a lot from the past. look at the issue of slavery. we were the bad guys than also. it was the foundation of the economy. people were making the same argument at them. it was not so bad. it would destroy the economy if we got rid of it. i think people have a lot to learn. there are many examples we can build on from the past year -- in the past. admitting that we have a problem is the first step. >> slavery -- abolishing slavery did not room economy. -- did not ruin the economy. >> right. >> nobody objects to a medical
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researcher over what we need to do to save lives. that when a clear researcher says what we have to do to save lives, people get upset. >> one of the things that i tried to stress in my book is a theme that i touched on earlier, that this should not be partisan political issue. with the attacks those of you to by politicians who wanted to discredit my work and wanted to discredit the signs of climate change, some of the heroes came from what you might be considered as surprising quarters. probably the greatest defender of against -- defender against
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the attacks of joe barton of texas, trying to find something to discredit me, it turned out that it was a fellow republican, the chair of the house science committee, pro- sons, pro-environmental republican who came to defend my colleagues and me in this political witch hunt by his own fellow republican. a think you'll find this among many of my colleagues and scientists today. we do our best to frame this not as a bipartisan or political issue because it should not be. it is a fact of life that it has become somewhat of a partisan political issue. but there is some evidence that there are people on the republican side of the aisle
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were stepping up to challenge and do something about this problem. >> we sometimes make the mistake of saying that [indiscernible] science and values can provide the same information. i think they are completely complementary. signs is able to tell us what the problem is and what the consequences are of the trees is we make. our values is what happens from the sources. a village in alaska considers it already happened. a town and a texas might think it will not happen for a few tickets are lunker. we have to bring our values and to it. otherwise we do not know what to do. >> left it to more questions in here. correct there has been a lot of -- >> the has been a lot of talk
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and i'm wondering if -- have we seen a similar rise in the denial? >> unfortunately, we have seen that. some of it at a fairly high level. it turns out a lot of lobbyists and advisers who were behind some of the efforts to stifle scientists and in the previous presidential administration here in the u.s. literally moved up to alaska. they used the same playbook. the government set aside to being centered, not being allowed to talk to the media about the threat to the environment from climate change. i have colleagues. scientists to study and were told specifically they were not
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allowed to talk to the media. but if -- that was being orchestrated at a high-level. it was the same playbook. some of the same advisers and lobbyists running the show. i do not think that is unrelated to some of what we have seen happen with policy, with regard to the mining it into canada under this administration. >> you mentioned hoping to hold the line or the parts per million. how many billion metric tons are pumping it in this year? what do we have to do to get it to stay down to that line? >> james hansen has made a
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passionate argument for 450 ppm being too high. even we we bought co2 back to 350, that would barely be necessary to make some of the changes. we're well above 350. we are now at 394 ppm. there may not be a magic number. it is a matter of extent and how much risk we want to subject ourselves to. if you want to think of it as a freeway, you would like to get off at the soonest exit ramp you can but if you missed that first exit ramp, you still want to take that next ramp. it does not mean you stay on the freeway in oblivion.
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he has done the numbers pretty carefully. we have 5 times as much fossil fuels already the available known reserves that we are ready to access. we have five times the amount necessary to give us 2 degrees celsius, three and a half degrees fahrenheit. dangerous warming of the climate system. we cannot afford to tap into the reserves we already have available, let alone be exploring, investigating other additional reserves. that is the bottom line. >> it is hard to look this issue -- issue in the face and not lose hope. when we see the signs rose ever more certain year after year. and the doubt regarding the
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seriousness of this issue has climbed as well how does each of us get up and in the morning? i think we all have enormous hope and faith in the fact that the trugth can win out. that we are survivalists. we want a better world, we want a better future. with some work, i think we can get there. >> let's end it there. , . thank you for coming. -- >> continue the discussion now with james hansen at the goddard institute for space studies and
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author of the storms of my grandchildren. he spoke of the commonwealth club of california and was awarded and the board at the event. it was named for a stamford university environmental scientists who advised several u.s. presidents. this is about an hour and 15 minutes. [applause] >> i interviewed a lot of fantastic people in this room and that does not happen very often. welcome to climate one. i'm greta dalton. in 1988, james hansen told a congressional hearing he was 99% certain that burning fossil fuels was hurting the earth's
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atmosphere. the next day, and new york times had nine set global warming has begun. a quarter-century later, he and other scientists are still striving to convince much of the united states. seas are rising, floods are increasing. humans are the cause. half of americans now accept that fact. 40% to not, according to gallup. we will discuss climatized communication, public policy and opinion with james hansen and our live audience here at the commonwealth club of california. today dr. hanson received a steven schneider award for outstanding communication. he was a pioneering scientist at stanford. please welcome dr. hansen. [applause]
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>> welcome back. it has been two years since you were here. i would like to begin with hurricane sandy. you lived in manhattan. where were you when it was approaching? >> i was on our farm in pennsylvania. where we ended up losing power for the better part of a week. four big trees blown over. railing's blown off. our deck and windows blown out of the barn. even in pennsylvania, separate it from the atlantic ocean by new jersey, all this still -- new jersey did not do much to offer it. but that is where i was.
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the lights went out. we heard these noises on the second floor as these billings were getting blown off. it was an interesting experience. >> your first big storm like that? >> i think this was the biggest one i was a in. even though i'm from western iowa upper but we get these tornado warnings all the time to go to the basement. -- where we would get these tornado warnings all the time to go to the basement. >> when did you go to new york? >> i drove to new york excitedly as a 25-year-old graduate of the university of iowa. in 1967, i met steve schneider, as did dent -- a student at
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that time. it is ironic that i'm getting the steve schneider war. we could not have been more opposite. -- award. we cannot have been more opposite. he had the gift of gab. he is so particulate as it didn't -- as a student.
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and, as i say, we couldn't have been more opposite. he -- as i was this tactiturn midwest scientist who wanted to do the numbers and do my science and not talk about it, but he would come to my door, he would be in the door of my office and talking to me and, eventually, i would turn around and be working on my desk and he -- somehow, he couldn't take the hint. [laughter] but when anniek who was then my girlfriend, would visit me, then she would see that, well, i really didn't want to talk to steve. so she would talk to him, and that was good, let me try to work. but if you try to work, you know, like when the television is on, and you're trying to do work, it's very hard. but, anyway, we actually -- despite this, we became friends and anniek and i went mountain climbing with him in the small mountains around new york. but -- >> and you've actually delegated to him some of the communications requests that came to you. >> yeah, because i didn't -- and when i -- after i testified
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in 1988 and realized all the hoopla that went with that, which is not what i do, i'm not a communicator and i don't enjoy it. so, when there were request for interviews, steve said he was happy to take them. so -- >> and that division of labor was fine with you? >> yeah, that was fine with me. and if they insisted on someone on the east coast, then i send them to michael oppenheimer, but -- >> he's at princeton. so -- >> yeah. >> so on sandy, when you went back to new york after sandy, what did you see and what were you thinking? you wrote a book, storms of my grandchildren. were you thinking, aha, the storms i've been writing about are here now? >> well, it was an example. the storm -- you know, i titled it storms of my grandchildren because, if we pass the point where greenland begins to shed ice fast enough to cool the north atlantic, which only requires that you get up to about half a meter or so from greenland, that will increase the temperature gradients between the high latitudes and low latitudes and that is what drives cyclonic storms. so some of these storms of the century that we've had, the
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really big cyclonic storms which, unlike a hurricane, they stretch for thousands of miles. so you can have one that stretches from the caribbean to canada and with hurricane force winds. and now, if we increase the temperature gradients by several degrees, which we can do, we're going to get those types of storms and europe will particularly suffer from them. but when you get a hurricane embedded within one, then you get double dose and that's what happened with sandy and that kind of thing will happen, too if we get stronger cyclonic storms. and the damage goes like the cube of the wind speed. so it's not like -- you know, if the wind speed had been 10 miles per hour less, we wouldn't have had all that damage. those trees have been standing there for centuries. these were really big trees on our property. so there haven't been storms like that, or those trees wouldn't still have been there. >> and was there a human
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fingerprint on sandy? could you say how much climate change contributed to the ferocity and the intensity of sandy? >> well, there's a human fingerprint in several ways. the ocean was unusually warm along the eastern seaboard and it was warmer by more than the global average, so people are saying, oh, you can only credit one quarter of that to global warming. well, the warming, it's like, these extreme events that we're getting, we're getting them much more frequently. of course, you can't say where and when they are going to be, but if you just -- as i say, the climate dice are now loaded, and they are loaded in such a way that, not only do we get more unusually warm seasons, but those which are most extreme are much more frequent than they used to be. so this warm patch of water, i would say, you would not have had -- unlikely that you would have such extreme warming
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without this global warming underneath that. so that's one thing. but in addition, the global warming makes more water vapor in the atmosphere which makes the rain fall heavier and the floods greater. so there is a connection with global warming, even though as scientists always like to say, well, you can't blame a single event and connect that in a simple way to global warming. but the frequency and extreme -- extremity of those events, you can connect to global warming in a very straightforward way. >> because i had heard from some people that hurricanes was where the data was less firm. sea level rises very good data, precipitation events, floods has very good data, but hurricanes is where people who are skeptics or deniers like to say, aha, not so. >> the frequency of occurrence
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of hurricanes is affected by many factors, not just the global temperature. but the storms that are driven by latent heat are -- that like have their fuel from latent heat and that includes hurricanes, thunderstorms, tornados, you have more fuel for those, so the strongest ones are going to be stronger. the number of hurricanes is a -- is more difficult and that is a matter of research, but the region in which you can possibly have hurricanes is expanding and the seasons in which you can have -- sandy was the end of october. it's very unlikely that we could have had that without the fact that the seasons are now getting longer -- warm season is getting longer. >> so what can you say about the probability of more sandys, bigger sandys, a bigger area of the country, the world that could have something like super
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storm sandy? >> well, the strong storms are if we continue down this path and i don't think we need to continue down this path, we're going to have more strong storms, that's clear. as i said, the fuel is the latent energy that you'll get from water vapor. >> the author and advocate, paul hawken, has often said that two category 5 storms up the i- 95 quarter in one year would be a game changer for the united states that that's when people would wake up. that's basically happened. two large storms -- >> yeah, yeah. >> up the eastern seaboard -- >> yeah. >> in one year, is it a game changer? >> well, it could be. it does require that we put the pressure on the political system that causes it to be a game changer. and we need to be doing the right things, as -- you know, we need to put pressure on the
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system, and it's not just saying, do something. you have to actually look at what politicians are proposing to do. >> and you, unlike a lot of scientists, actually went, got arrested and have kind of gone from a scientist to an advocate. do you think that's the right way -- a civil disobedience direct action is a way to pressure the government? >> well, that's one. i think peaceful disobedience is one way to draw attention. i'm not suggesting that young scientists do that and get an arrest record, but when you're my age, it's not -- it's fine. [laughter]. [applause] but, again, it's important to really think through the problem, through the solution. and i really object to politicians and others who say scientists should just stick to narrow science and not look at
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the whole problem, because you do have to connect the dots and scientists are actually trained to be objective and to understand complex problems and this is a complex problem. >> but some people would say that your activism clouds your science. >> well, the science has to be judged on its own merrits. i frankly think that the scrutiny of my papers has become greater. and -- but, anyway, they have -- >> the fbi or who are you talking about? [laughter] >> no, i'm talking about -- >> scientists. >> not even as much the scientists as editors. you know, they're very cautious, even when i recently got the strongest reviews possible, the highest ratings on a paper that i submitted to the proceedings of the national academy of science. the editor was apparently --
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got a little worried when he saw the title of the paper which was the case for young people and nature. and there were statements in the abstract which apparently attracted his attention. so he gave the paper to the editorial board, and the anonymous editorial board says, scientists should not be making normative statements about intergenerational injustice and such things. so, i think, i frankly find that, in some ways, it's become harder. so, anyway, the science -- >> you are held to a higher bar, is that what you're saying? >> yeah, it becomes -- yeah. >> and back on in pressuring the government. so direct civil disobedience is one way. what are other ways that can -- you say this thing -- you know, science is clear, government is the problem. how can the -- >> well -- >> government be pressured? >> yeah. there are multiple ways and i think we need to use a number of them.
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one of them that we're using is to file lawsuits against the government to do their job. so our children's trust is -- has filed a suit against the federal government and against some state governments, asking the court to require the government to give a plan for how it's going to protect the rights of young people. whether this will work, i don't know, because courts do not tend to get way out in front of the public. in the case of civil rights, that tactic worked eventually, but by that time -- and the courts told the government that they should desegregate schools, give a plan how you're going to give equal rights to minority children. and -- but by that time, the
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public was marching in the street. so we have to get the public behind this, but also we have -- we have a democratic process, we need to try to influence that with the people we elect and the things that we ask of them. so, for example, there's an organization called citizens climate lobby. and they now exist in -- apparently some of them are here. [laughter] >> infiltrated. >> they have -- they've doubled in size each year the last four years and they now exist in all 50 states and they are going to visit their congress people, writing op eds, and, in particular, they're advocating a -- putting a price on carbon emissions which -- on carbon, which will be collected from fossil fuel companies at the source, at the domestic mine or
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the port of entry, and the money would be distributed 100% to the public on equal amount to each legal resident of the country on a per capita basis. that would provide the -- that's what is essential. as long as fossil fuels are the cheapest energy, then people will keep burning them, and they're only cheaper because they -- partly they're subsidized, but mainly because they don't pay their costs to society. so the air and water pollution that they produce causes lots of health problems and about 40,000 deaths a year at the united states and about a million worldwide. all those health costs are born by the public, not by the fossil fuel companies. the climate costs, which are already enormous, $50 billion for new york, from sandy, $50 billion in new jersey, the drought last summer, these are
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-- these have enormous costs. who pays those? the taxpayers, basically. >> that drought alone took half a point off of the gep growth - the gdp growth from estimates. >> yeah. so those costs are not built into the fossil fuels, and they should be. and the way -- so what you should do is have this gradually rising price on carbon collected from the fossil fuel companies with a 100% distributed to the public. it would spur the economy and -- >> what would the fossil fuel companies think about that? >> you know, the fossil fuel companies -- well, they are the problem in a sense, but, you know -- i described this to a meeting of international labor leaders. and i said, if you do this, then the marketplace will make the decisions, instead of the government saying, 'let's subsidize solar panels or let's subsidize this.' the government
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usually doesn't get things right and it doesn't provide an incentive for all the other things that could help. there may be things that are much better than solar panels. so you have to just put the price on carbon, let the marketplace decide whether solar panels or windmills or energy efficiency or some things that we haven't thought of. but this -- an international labor leader stood up and said, that's libertarian letting the marketplace -- of course, it is libertarian with a small l, but it's also populist because most people are going to get more in their dividend and it gives them the opportunity to reduce their carbon footprint and make money in the process. but it's also democratic because it treats everybody equally. and i was going to say, the other group -- oh, the -- when i gave a talk at grover
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norquist's wednesday meeting -- >> oh, that must have been interesting. >> one of the -- this was at the -- i gave two. there was first a meeting with him and some of the republican leaders which was open, and then there was one which was closed and i can't talk about that one but i'm sure it was at the first one. that one -- [laughter] -- one of them said, that's income redistribution. well, yeah, it is. the people who do a good job will get some of the money from somebody else. and -- but that's what if we don't do something like that. that's -- you see, we would reach -- if we did that, we would reach tipping points where alternatives would be cheaper than -- say, coal, and then you would quickly phase out
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the fossil fuel. so you then leave it in the ground and that's what we have to do. >> british columbia is doing something like this so that maybe there's some different details, but british columbia replaced one kind of tax, it was a payroll or corporate tax -- >> yeah. >> and imposed the carbon tax. now, you think that's not high enough, but it didn't -- for example -- >> well, i think the problem with that is -- and, grover norquist, by the way, he did decide -- well, you know, the thing -- i think what convinces conservatives is the fact that once they are smart enough -- and those who are smart enough to realize we're not making this stuff up, and there are most -- and i think a lot of them are smart enough to realize that, then, they start to think, well, gee, if we let -- if we continue to deny this, we'll reach a point where things happen like super sandys. and then, the government is going to -- that's pearl harbor and the government will
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take over like the government took over detroit and said, you can't make cars anymore. you're gonna make airplanes and you're not gonna make money. they don't want that to happen, so -- something gonna do about it before -- intervention now -- >> yeah. >> is better than more intervention later, more government -- >> right. >> intervention later. >> but i forgot what your question was. >> well, british columbia -- >> oh, british columbia. yeah, let me because i want to -- >> it's -- you don't like that example. >> i do want to comment on british columbia because -- and so, grover norquist said, well, maybe a tax is okay if we remove some other tax equal amount. >> so it's revenue neutral. >> and then, within one day, he changed his mind because, undoubtedly, some people helped him change his mind. but, i sent him a note that said you -- but you're right, because if you replace one tax with another, probably we'll soon -- the public will soon
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forget about that one that went away and they're gonna see every day at the pump, they're gonna see their gasoline is costing them more and they're gonna object ; they're not gonna let it go up. so that system of trading taxes, i don't think is the right one. i think, instead of reducing another tax, give the money to the public. it will stimulate the economy, it will lead to innovations because, then as long as entrepreneurs know that that price is gonna keep going up, they're gonna work very hard on finding alternatives. >> so one more thing on british columbia and all of that. it goes with this, but they put a price on carbon in place, it is lower than it -- you would probably want it, but they still reelected the government that did that. >> right. >> it did not wreck the economy, it is still an example that -- >> right. >> the carbon price that doesn't sink the economy that can be a step in the right direction. >> yeah. that's -- it's not an unuseful thing, but if you look at their carbon emissions, you're not gonna find them going down. we have to actually get carbon emissions to go down at a rapid rate and that's only gonna happen with a substantial price
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which is rising over time. >> well, that's -- >> and that's why i -- you know, a state like california which is a leader, which really has people who understand this and want to do something about it, so i'm very disappointed when they choose a half-baked system like cap-and-trade with offsets. [applause] >> so let's talk about that california system. it's a law signed by governor schwarzenegger ab 32. cap-and-trade is 20% of that system. it gets most of the political attention and oomph and you're a critic of cap-and-trade because -- >> because it's not -- it's half assed. [laughter]. it's going -- >> because they gave away too many free allowances to polluters? >> you know, so there was this waxman-markey bill, 3,000 pages long. the lobbyists controled that so that it had giveaways to utilities, to fossil fuel
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industry and it brings big banks into it. why do you want big banks in this problem? why should they be making money? every cent that they make is coming out of the public's hide and they add absolutely nothing. what you want is a system which is very simple, and it makes clear. you know, there's this -- people will see in the marketplace that's something that is using fossil fuels is gonna cost more because of that carbon price, and so they will make their decisions based on that, and there's no money going to banks at all. you don't want a system with caps where then you have this trading, you have derivatives and you have markets that then collapsed and you don't actually reduce the emissions much. that's been tried in europe and it didn't do much. and we have to really get major reductions. >> the advocates of cap-and- trade would say, it allows for price variability, but an
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environmental outcome that is more certain than with the -- >> no. >> with the carbon -- >> absolutely not. it's certain that it won't be effective; that's what certain. it get -- >> because of -- >> you'll get -- that's -- it -- >> because of the offsets and the carve-outs and the scheming and gaming by traders. >> yeah. they're saying -- well, first of all, you don't even know. all we really know is that we have to reduce emissions as rapidly as we practically can. and, unfortunately, 450 ppm -- >> parts per million of carbon -- >> parts per million of co2 is a disaster scenario on the long run. we are actually going to have -- and 450 ppm would make the planet warmer than it was during the eemian. >> so -- >> a 120,000 years ago, the last interglacial period on sea level is now estimated -- was at least six meters higher than it is now.
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so we would be setting the planet on a path to disasters. we can't say when the ice sheets are going to melt enough to cause that large sea level rise, but, you know, we already can see with co2 in the atmosphere now which is about 390 or 300 -- between 390 and 395. but the system has not come to equilibrium with that, we know that the planet is now out of that equilibrium for about seven tenths of a watt per meter square, which means there's almost as much warming in the pipeline as that which has already occurred. and look what's happening with the eight tenths of a degree warming now. and if we're going to double that -- so what we really are gonna have to do, the right -- and i understand why -- i mean people are trying to argue for the saying, well, if you ask for something that seems unrealistic, then people will
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dismiss you. well, you have to say what's honest. we have to keep the climate close to the holocene. civilization developed during the last several thousand years the holocene which was -- we were not at the peak holocene temperature at the pre- industrial, but now, we've probably reasoned out of the -- of thely risen out f holocene range. because sea level, for example, is now going up 3.1 millimeters a year which is 3.1 meters per millennium. it's way out of the range that existed during the holocene. so we're already a little bit above the holocene. we've got to stay close to the holocene if we want to have a stable climate. and that's what -- and that's still possible, because there are lots of ways we can actually draw co2 out of the atmosphere with better agricultural practices and reforestation. so it's not an impossible problem, but the key thing is we've got to start to get off fossil fuels soon.
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fossilt burn all the fuels. it's really funny. i've been going around for five years showing these bar graphs for how much carbon there is in oil, gas, which is less than oil, and coal, which is much larger, and then i also had these unconventional fossil fuels. i hardly -- sometimes, i didn't show those because i didn't think anybody is gonna be so stupid as to burn unconventional fossil fuels like tar sands and tar shale. but i was showing -- and i have the purple part on the bottom of those bars and showing this is only a small fraction of the total fossil fuels. we can't -- we cannot burn all these fossil fuels without going to the ice free state which means sea level 250 feet higher. butso it's just crazy, somehow, i never made that sink in, and is now -- then bill mckibben. you know, i've talked with him frequently and he's a much better writer, and he wrote
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this article for rolling stone. he said the same thing but he said it in a much better way, and suddenly, he said, the reserves that these oil companies are counting on their books and their stock prices are based on this, those are five times greater than what we can burn and still hope to have a livable planet. then, suddenly, some people, started to realize, we've got a problem. >> and you, at one point, said that, you think some of those oil executives or energy executives are -- >> they could be -- >> crimes against humanity. >> oh, oh let's go the other side. they are the -- i sometimes say, the captains of industry are the ones who can really help us solve this. and the -- they're not -- these are smart people. you don't get to be the top dog in these organizations unless you're pretty smart and pretty capable. and, you know, i've met with jim rogers of -- >> duke energy? >> duke energy, and then, the
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one -- the other one in new jersey, the big one, and then the florida light and power and i forget the names, but all these guys say that, if you would give us knowledge of how that carbon price is gonna rise, we can deal with that. we will make the investments so that electricity becomes carbon free over a few decades. they -- but we've got to give them that. if we don't give them that, then they're not gonna do it. as long as they can get away with coal plants as the cheapest energy or now gas as a cheaper -- that's what they will use. so we -- they -- we-- some of them have a heart and they understand this and they have children and grandchildren, too. so they could be our friend, but as long -- but if they're doing -- like the ceo of exxon mobil and like the koch brothers, and if they fund
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disinformation and actual change in textbooks, that's the thing which i'm over -- between christmas and new year, i have an appointment to talk to legal scholars again because i think we should file suits against those people for crimes against humanity, because they know -- [applause] >> they're smart enough to know what they're doing and they should be held responsible. --and what's the status of you mentioned the atmospheric trust litigation. i believe there was a judge in texas, of all places, that actually nibbled at that one. so what's the status? you sued -- the suit against california was disbanded. you're still going forward with another one -- >> yeah. >> and your hope is, you want a plan from these governments to have -- >> yeah. >> the courts force them to do something. >> yeah. it looks promising in a couple
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of states and i can't -- i don't really know the details but that's what a legal scholar has told me and the -- julia olson who's the head of the -- >> our children's trust. >> our children's trust. the federal court -- the federal case, unfortunately, the judge in the district of columbia, who we thought was -- would be favorable, ruled against it saying that it should first go to epa, that epa has responsibility, not the courts. and our children's trust is appealing that decision. it -- and there's also -- just -- back from the netherlands where i went to help launch a case against the dutch government. they're amazing. i mean they're at sea -- basically at sea level, and
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yet, they are burning coal. and they are -- most recent government there is pretty much in denial about this problem. but, that -- and they're -- they're an intelligent country, so i think there's a good hope that the courts there might have a -- >> do something about it. >> do something, yeah. >> should we do research on geoengineering? geoengineering is the idea of putting things into the atmosphere to buy some time to deflect some solar radiations, some heat, some light. we may need that as an insurance policy if things get -- that's sort of break the glass, pull the emergency switch situation. >> yeah. well, research -- we should understand the system. in some of the -- burning fossil fuels is geoengineering, and there would be some ways of
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drawing co2 out of the atmosphere which makes sense. and that -- you know, you may want to -- one reason to develop carbon capture and storage is not just to let us burn fossil fuels and -- without putting co2, but also because we're probably going to have to suck some co2 out of the atmosphere, because 450 ppm is certainly too much. and so we could burn biofuels in a power plant and capture the co2 and then sequester it. so that's a kind of geoengineering which i would call soft geoengineering. the idea of putting up one pollutant to block the effects of different pollutants doesn't seem to make a lot of sense to me. and, furthermore, putting up reflection -- reflecting sunlight away will not solve the ocean acidification problem,
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so -- >> not much there. >> not much there, yeah. >> but as we -- there's also aerosols that come partly from coal burning and if we reduce coal burning, then we could reduce the aerosols which could -- >> yeah. >> exacerbate warming. >> yeah. and i'm actually working on a paper which is called doubling down on the faustian bargain. the aerosols are a faustian bargain -- are part of the faustian bargain by burning coal and putting aerosols up there, and reflecting some sunlight, we minimize the warming. but those aerosols only stay up there five days, so once we stop burning, they're gonna fall out and then we get the full warming. well, in the last 10 years, if you look at the fossil fuel burning, which have been going up one and a half percent per
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year, suddenly it started going up 3% a year as china and india really kicked in. other things being equal, if you change the rate of emission of co2 to the atmosphere, the so-called airborne fraction, the fraction of the co2 that appears in the atmosphere should increase, simply because that quick injection of co2 causes the ocean surface layers to be relatively saturated so it can't get in to the ocean as fast as it used to. but what's actually happened in the last 12 years is the airborne fraction has plummeted. it's now only about 40%. the other 60% is disappearing. and it's not mostly going in to the ocean. the good fraction of it is being taken up, somehow, by the terrestrial biosphere. of i think that's because
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the -- we were doubling -- i think we're doubling down on the faustian bargain because we're fertilizing the terrestrial biosphere, both with the co2 in the atmosphere and the combination of that with more nitrogen which will spread in part of -- the nitrogen is being spread around by these aerosols which china and india are putting out and its actually reaching canada and some of it is reaching asia. and so that -- and a lot of nitrogen comes from fertilizing. but, in any case, i think we're doubling down. that is -- all the more reason why we got to get off this rapid curve, we 've got to get on a downward curve and the only way that's gonna happen is if we put a price on carbon. >> if you're just joining us, our guest today at climate one is dr. james hansen, head of nasa goddard institute for space studies and adjunct professor at columbia university's earth
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institute. i'm greg dalton. how would you grade president obama in addressing climate change? >> he missed a great opportunity to be a great president. you know, when he was elected and had 70% popularity four years ago, he could have gone to the public. and like franklin roosevelt explained, that for the sake of our national defense, for the sake of the economy, for the sake of climate, we should deal with this problem in an honest way, putting a price on carbon. you know, when i was in united kingdom with anniek after -- she had a mild heart attack there, so i was stuck there for a week. this is right after he was elected before he took office. so we wrote a letter to him and explained this to him. i tried to get john holdren to
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deliver it to him, but he wasn't sworn in yet so he couldn't do it. >> the president's science adviser. >> yeah. but that -- it's a shame because he said he understood the problem. he said we have a planet in peril. but in a way, i don't think he was getting very good advice. i think that people were telling him well we need more solar panels and we need more efficient vehicles, and those things are true, but they're not gonna solve the problem by themselves. without a price on carbon, all you do by reducing your emissions in those ways is reduce the demand for the fossil fuel, make it cheaper and somebody else will burn it. we have to actually leave those fossil fuels in the ground most of what remains. and the only way that will happen is if they are an -- if they're honestly priced. right now, they are heavily subsidized by you, the public. >> and people would say even if the u.s.
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does something bold, if he went big in a second time, china and india would still continue to burn as much coal and oil as they can get their hands on to have the standard of living that you and i and everyone in this room and everyone listening to this, enjoys. >> yeah. that's -- >> and that's their right -- >> that's wrong, and the reason is, if we put a price on carbon, the world trade organization rules, preferably we and europe or we and china -- you'd rather not have the united states alone, but we're so -- still so powerful economically that we could even go alone and say we're going to put a border duty on products from countries that do not have a carbon fee that's equivalent. so it's fair, and it would be an enormous incentive for that other country, china or other country, to put their own carbon price on, because then
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they could collect the money, rather than us collecting it at our border. that's the only way that you can get an international agreement. -- can't do it by begging the kyoto protocol approach was to beg. beg all the other countries to pick some target and then reach that target without any -- and, of course, even though many countries agreed like canada, they soon abandon it -- when it's not convenient, they abandon it -- you have to -- the only way you can enforce it is with the price, and that -- so that could be done. and, you know, i was in china and the china -- chinese leaders understand this. they don't deny their climate problem. they are engineers and they're rationale, and they don't want to be addicted to fossil fuels the way the united states is and have to protect the supply line around the world, so they are, number one in solar panels,
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wind power and nuclear power, building thirty nuclear power plants. so i don't -- but, of course, they do have a major problem with so many people in poverty and they're -- and they need -- they know they need to get them out of poverty or they may -- their government may not survive. so the -- of course, they're doing everything they can to raise the standard of living, but they are planning, by the middle of the century, to really have all their electricity from -- both india and china are really looking to go non-fossil fuel. but to make that happen soon enough, we have to have a price on carbon. >> well, i'm gonna touch quickly on the keystone xl pipeline then we're gonna have the audience participation. theve been an opponent of keystone xl pipeline. i wonder what you think about